Port: Now that the election over, the Fargo's city commissioners decide to behave like adults

The only question we, the public, are left with is why the commission, but for reasons of petty local politics, couldn't have been reasonable in May?

An empty dirt lot with a sidewalk running past it.
Construction debris has largely been cleaned up on the site where townhomes are to be built just east of The View apartment complex near North Dakota State University. Fargo City Commissioners harshly criticized Roers president Jim Roers for failing to build the townhomes as agreed by the end of 2021. Photo taken Monday, May 16, 2022.
Archie Ingersoll / The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — Back in May, with hotly contested mayoral and city commission races on the ballot, the Fargo City Commission raked Roers Construction over the coals after the company requested an adjustment to their tax increment finance deal with the city.

With Mayor Tim Mahoney looking on, commissioner Dave Piepkorn threw a tantrum , repeatedly accusing company owner Jim Roers (who is also a Republican state senator) of being a liar.

That Rep. Shannon Roers-Jones — who serves in the state House as a Republican and is also legal counsel for her father Jim's company — was one of Mahoney's opponents for mayor shouldn't be overlooked.

What Roers was seeking was an adjustment to the timeline of the TIF deal.

His company hadn't yet built a promised row of townhouses to serve as a screen between other commercial and denser residential development and the single-family homes in the Roosevelt neighborhood. Roers blamed traffic congestion at the site, as well as the unusual circumstances of the pandemic and spiking construction costs, which is not unreasonable. He wanted more time to complete the construction and also payout on the TIF deal for the parts of the project that were completed.


But for the looming election, and the political interests of those on the commission (Piepkorn, too, was running for re-election facing a large field of challengers), an accord between Roers and the city would have been easy to reach.

These sort of adjustments are made all the time.

"Kevin O'Leary had a point when he compared North Dakota's economic policies to Minnesota's, but in making it he made our state seem small and petty."
"A Sanford employee on a committee chaired by a Sanford-funded politician moved to reconsider a bill so that another Sanford-funded politician could make an amendment a Sanford lobbyist asked for."
"Even if Trump is convicted in the criminal justice system, it's not going to matter in the political system until Trump's supporters care about the honesty and integrity of their candidate."

In fact, just a couple of weeks after the election, the city quietly made adjustments to a TIF deal made with the developers working on the site of an old Kmart store. The developers will now only be building about half of the affordable housing units they planned , but the city agreed to keep the TIF deal with the developer unmodified.

This was not an unreasonable decision, given the circumstances, and the city managed to do it without subjecting the developer to a political struggle session .

Even Mr. Roers and his company have now reached an accord with the city.

Roers pretty much got what he was looking for, which was more time to complete the project , and again the agreement was reached without any childish meltdowns from city commission members.

What changed between May and August?

The only variable this observer can identify is the June election.


In May, both Mahoney and Piepkorn needed an issue on which they could grandstand and a boogeyman they could demonize, and the fact that the boogeyman they chose just happened to be the father of Mahoney's most serious challenger was the cherry on top of this sundae of self-serving spectacle.

The city ultimately made the right decision with regard to this development. They gave Roers more time to complete the project because his request was reasonable and justified. They also included accountability measures to help ensure that further delays are avoidable, and those too are reasonable.

The only question we, the public, are left with is why the commission, but for reasons of petty local politics, couldn't have been reasonable in May?

It was politics, my friends, and that ought to worry the good people of Fargo, including those with business before the city commission. The people currently in charge of the city clearly aren't afraid to use the power of local government to punish political opponents.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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